Subject: SBY shows sympathy for Balibo Five
SBY shows sympathy for Balibo Five
March 10, 2010 - 6:24PM
The Indonesian president has expressed sympathy to the families of Australian newsmen killed in Balibo in 1975.
The surprise move could help end 35 years of rancour between the two countries.
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono sent a personal message of support to the widow of one of the five men during a lunch at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday.
And he willingly received a letter from the widow, Shirley Shackleton, in which she set out her concerns about the deaths.
Mrs Shackleton described the president's actions as a "miracle".
The deaths of the Australian-based newsmen, who were covering the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975, has been a long-running sore between Australia and Indonesia.
Indonesia has always maintained the men were caught in crossfire and the case should be closed.
But some Australians - including the NSW deputy coroner - believe the Indonesian army murdered the men to prevent them reporting on the invasion.
Last year, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) launched a war crimes investigation into the deaths, while the release of the film Balibo rekindled public interest. It was banned in Indonesia.
Indonesia has not welcomed the murder accusations and the issue is highly sensitive.
Mrs Shackleton, the widow of Greg Shackleton, went to Wednesday's lunch with a letter calling on Dr Yudhoyono to "put this atrocity to rest" and face the truth.
She was stunned when two emissaries from the president approached her.
"They came and said that we've come from President Yudhoyono to give you his best wishes," she told AAP.
"The emissary said he wants you to know he's very sympathetic to you, and he's very interested to read what you have to say in your letter."
Mrs Shackleton handed over her letter and responded with: "Thank you thank you thank you, and how wonderful for him to do this."
"I think it's a little bit of a miracle," she told AAP.
Mrs Shackleton said the president's actions augured well for a firm and true relationship between Australia and Indonesia.